My girl Mary over at Mama Mary Show wrote an interesting post on her thoughts of the Amazon Kindle pedophile situation a post that posed the question: was this a PR ploy set up by Amazon to get them in the news and have their name mentioned over and over right before the Holiday gift buying season?
Since my Facebook status update prompted Mary's post, I thought I would give my 2 cents - from a PR perspective.
While this status update from the other night was very tongue-in-cheek, crisis communication is exhausting, difficult and often a no-win situation. Yes, there is the old PR saying that good or bad, all attention is attention - but from a brand standpoint, I can't see a company ever wanting to be associated with illegal, racist or sexist news.
Let's take the recent Target PR-debacle. Upon the request of some head-honcho, the company made a campaign donation to candidate who has roots not only in anti-LGBT motives, but was associated with people who propagate hate-filled and threatening messages. While the Target PR people JUMPED and acted and apologized, swearing it was a stupid oversight, they have now lost the reputation as being a generally good, clean, non-sleazy company. And while the "boycott" of this mega-store will die down (because let's face it, we all need paper towels and Method cleaning supplies), from now on there will always be a microscope on them. People are watching Target closer than ever, waiting for them to mess up again.
Target's LGBT situation = BAD PR.
Last year a "beta tester" for the iPhone 4 just happened to leave his test model at a bar. A bar where a write for Gizmodo just happened to be having a beer. And while both parties swear that this was a true mistake, even going so far as involving legal teams, this got people talking about the iPhone 4. The media attention that followed was all excitement-based, making people wonder and leaving them guessing about this anticipated next-generation phone. And even though the Apple PR team was freaking out and working 24/7 over it, this attention generated was better than any press release.
Apple iPhone 4 debacle = GREAT PR
And what about BP and the oil spill in the Gulf? I'm sure the majority of Americans had no idea BP owned that rig, or how much oil they supply or who their CEO is...but now we do! So it goes without saying...
BP = HORRIBLE Disastrous PR
Back to the Amazon situation, this is more than a "free speech" issue... this particular book, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love & Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct, actually describes how to engage in illegal activities and hurt, molest and abuse children. By having this book available for download, Amazon is promoting illegal activities. They have not only garnered the attention of outraged parents, but also the U.S. Justice Department. And regarding the author, Phillip R. Greaves, who writes abut the "idea" is that pedophiles are a misunderstood sexual minority who "love" children and compares the plight of pedophiles to the plight of Jews in World War II...you don't think this guy now has an FBI case-file 3ft deep?
This can NEVER result in good PR.
No matter what they do moving forward, people will always associate Amazon with pedophila. The legalities of the situation are going to take years and millions of dollars to get out of. There is a very good chance that Amazon will face Federal criminal charges for publishing and distributing child pornography. And in the end, the Amazon brand will always be tarnished by this issue.
Public Relations needs to support and protect the brand at all cost. Crisis communications is all about damage control and making sure the bad press leads eventually leads to good press. If this was a case of Amazon leaking a book before its release date, or putting a naked picture up somewhere, those are things a brand can recover from. Being thought of as a company that makes money off products that teach people how to break the law and hurt children will haunt them forever.
What do you think?